IN THE office of Strauss Photo Technical Service in our nation's capital I saw the little sign: "We are making a little effort to be pleasant for a limited time only. As soon as business picks up this will stop."
It got me to thinking. How much of what we do is really motivated by a genuine interest in the welfare of those we serve? In A Minister's Obstacles Turnbull declares, "An analysis of a preacher's zeal and loyalty has been estimated to be 93 parts impure with bigotry, personal ambition and love of authority; and only seven parts pure zeal composed of love to God and for men."—Page 101.
Could this possibly be true of our work? At least this thought should lead to a searching self-analysis.
In his Yale lectures on preaching Raymond Calkins says, "No one has a right to be a Christian minister whose supreme interest does not center in human beings. He may possess all other qualifications, but if he likes books or study, investigation or research, administration or organization, speaking or lecturing, more than he likes human beings, he will never make a successful minister of Jesus Christ. He ought to value books; he must continually and energetically study; he should have abilities as an organizer and administrator; but above all, beyond all and within all, he must have an absorbing interest in the lives and souls of men. This must be his supreme preoccupation. These are his specialty." —Quoted in Heart of the Yale Lectures, p. 106.
Consider this in the light of the sermons we preach. Do we preach to make a favorable impression? or to reveal our superior knowledge? or to gain applause? Or do we preach because of our sincere love for the people and concern for their salvation?
Henry Ward Beecher puts it succinctly, "Sermons are mere tools; and the business that you have in hand is not making sermons, or preaching sermons—it is saving men."
Beecher goes on to point out what this person-centered ministry will lead to. "You will very soon come, in your parish life, to the habit of thinking more about your people and what you shall do for them than about your sermons and what you shall talk about. That is a good sign. Just as soon as you find yourself thinking, on Monday or Tuesday, 'Now, here are these persons, or this class'—you run over your list and study your people—'What shall I do for them?' you will get some idea what you need to do."
When once we become totally absorbed in the good we can do for those we have been called of God to serve there will be little room for the "greeneyed monsters" of bigotry, personal ambition, and love of authority.
God give us grace to pray as did John S. Hoyland in his poem "Indian Dawn":
"Teach me, O Christ,
Thy full humility:
"May I rejoice that my friends are better than I,
May I seek, and find, some lowly and humble service,
Obscure and remote.
"And there may I lose myself in the need of the men around me."